The Change Maker leading the way with high-tech innovative healthcare software

  • 29/01/2021
  • Sponsored by - Dell

Emergency Q launched in 2016, and has been making a huge difference to New Zealand’s health sector ever since. 

Founder Morris Pita explains the origins of Emergency Q. "It was the result of taking one of our boys to a hospital Emergency Department one weekend. We couldn’t fault the care he received. In the end it turned out he just had a virus, but the hospital Emergency Department is designed for medical emergencies. You often can’t see how busy an ED is from the waiting room. In the end it took close to eight hours for him to be treated, but there were four clinics open nearby which could have treated him in a fraction of that time. If we’d known he was safe to start his journey in primary care and the comparative wait times, we’d have made a different decision that night."

Morris is this month’s well deserving Dell Change Maker. Dell and The Project have been recognising New Zealanders who have made a positive social impact in the community through the Change Maker campaign.

The Emergency Q software is clever in its design with custom-built portals for patients, hospital triage teams, primary care clinics and St John ambulance.

The concept is simple - frontline nurses are provided with digital tools, including the ability to see live comparative wait times of their ED and local primary care clinics.  

As Morris explains, nurses use their clinical judgement and expertise to identify cases suited to beginning their journey in primary care. "They empower patients with minor complaints such as sprains and earache, by letting them know they have a real choice about where they seek care for their medical issue."

Patients can also download the Emergency Q App from home and see live waiting times. It also explains what is and what is not a medical emergency. You can access the latest COVID-19 information too, including talking to a mental health counsellor at the touch of a button, and finding nearby Food Banks. 

A triage nurse at Middlemore Hospital with Emergency Q on her desktop.
A triage nurse at Middlemore Hospital with Emergency Q on her desktop.

"The direct benefit is non-urgent patients can access primary care quickly, which frees up hospital doctors and nurses to care for more critical patients. We estimate the software has saved the taxpayer approximately $15 million so far," he says. 

Emergency Q is now operating inseven NZ hospitals including Middlemore and Waikato, and recent statistics show it’s having a positive impact with up to 80% of patients with minor health issues being safely redirected to primary care clinics.

A major milestone was reached just before Christmas with the 50,000th patient using Emergency Q to access primary care -  enough to fill Eden Park. 

"Having clinicians come on board from the start was critical," Morris says. "We were fortunate early on that nurses and doctors embraced the new concept.

"Back when we started our first pilot, the hospital informed us if we could help them reduce numbers by five patients a day that would be judged a success - on our first day 13 patients used the new software and things have gone on from there."

"A key focus for our company is working with DHBs to empower Māori and Pacific communities who are disproportionately high users of EDs for primary care issues. More equitable access to primary care is better for everyone - patients save time and are treated by primary care experts, and ED nurses and doctors are able to focus on patients with medical emergencies."

Emergency Q is also a proudly Māori owned and operated business - a large proportion of its software developers are Māori in an industry where Māori are underrepresented. "It’s important for us to be able to be ourselves and operate in a completely authentic way, which also helps build trust with our key stakeholders."

"Our culture informs everything we do here. For instance, when partners or suppliers come to visit we greet them with a mihi."

It’s this type of success and work ethic that has led Emergency Q to winning three NZ Hi-Tech awards since 2018 - the Kiwibank Most Innovative Hi-Tech Service Award, The VISA Most innovative Hi-Tech solution for the Public Good, and the Callaghan Innovation Māori Hi-tech Company of the Year award. 

"The awards recognise our focus on helping communities get the type of care they need where and when they need it, and vindicate the professionalism, passion and hours of mahi the team puts in every day," Morris says.

The future looks bright for the Emergency Q team. They’ll be offering the software to more hospitals and communities around New Zealand, and overseas as well. 

"We’re currently having discussions with different corners of the globe, including Australia, US (who currently have around 40 million non-urgent cases using ED’s) South East Asia and Europe," Morris says. 

"We have major goals and challenges ahead of us, and we’re excited about sharing our Maori-tech solution with the rest of the world."

If you know someone who goes that extra mile to support and shape a better future for their communities, nominate them here and they could be a winner of a brand new Dell XPS 13 laptop.

This article is brought to you by Dell